“How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:20 NLT)
Throughout the Bible there are numerous truths that are emphasized in comparison with something else. Things like “faith without good deeds,” “knowledge without love,” “pleasing God without faith,” and many more. In the next few posts, I’d like to highlight some of these comparisons to see if it can help guide us in being more effective in our witness for Christ.
Our dilemma regarding faith and works is there are numerous points of view which tend to lean in one of two directions. There are those who believe all you need is faith to be saved, and those who believe works or good deeds is the real evidence of salvation. My heart in these articles is to understand what the Bible says and seek to understand it in a way that will exalt Jesus in and through my life most effectively.
James, the author of the above quote, is the half brother of Jesus. He lived his whole life in the shadow of the Messiah, yet he didn’t place his trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord until after Jesus was crucified and resurrected. To live your life with someone, watch them die, then see them after they’ve been resurrected would be a pretty strong argument that He’s the real deal. What’s my point? I put a lot of credence in James’ opinion on this matter.
James lived through all of this. He watched the way Jesus lived, even before He put his faith in Him. He understood like few could, that there was never a point in Jesus’ life when He didn’t exhibit the presence and power of God in and through everything He said and did. Couple that with what the writer of Hebrews says in chapter 11:6: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”
Additionally, one very strong argument to me is the emphasis Jesus placed on His own “works.” For example, when John the Baptist questioned whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus responded by saying: “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.” (Matthew 11:5 NLT) But we have to balance that with what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23: “On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’”
How do we give expression to our sincerity as we seek Him? Isn’t it through the disciplines of our life? How we pray, study, and seek to live God’s Word, as well as the fruit of His presence as it’s revealed in and through our lives. How can you love someone by faith alone? How can we demonstrate kindness, generosity, and compassion by faith alone? There must be tangible evidence of the life we profess to possess.
But, as Jesus explained, we can exhibit powerful manifestations, even miraculous things, without faith in Christ. We must understand that Satan also possesses miraculous power, that he will put on display, fooling many in the last days.
So, I’m with James. Faith not verified by good deeds, that not only reveal the power of God, but the fruit of His character, is worthless in God’s sight. And just for the record – life without Jesus is hell, whether now or throughout eternity.
Blessings, Ed 😊